Murphysboro may rename park after influential Black educator

Updated 7/13/2020 9:13 AM

MURPHYSBORO, Ill. -- The mayor of Murphysboro wants to rename a local park in honor of one of the first Black graduates from what was then known as Southern Illinois Normal University.

Mayor Will Stephens says Carl Lee was a 'útrailblazer and pathfinder.'Ě The Murphysboro City Council will consider renaming Town Center Park after him at the council's Tuesday meeting, The Southern Illinoisan reported.


Lee attempted to integrate Murpysboro Township High School in 1916, when he was 18. After graduating from college he became an educator, serving as principal of Douglas School in Murphysboro.

Murphysboro Councilman Russell Brown remembers Lee as a nice man who would buy clothes and shoes for neighborhood children whose families couldn't afford them. Brown was one of the driving forces behind establishing Carl Lee Day in 1976, which Murphysboro still marks each year.

Stephens said he's been wanting to rename Town Center Park for five years, but hadn't been able to settle on a new name. He concluded the site should become Carl Lee Park to honor one of the community's most influential Black residents, a decision he reached amid a national conversation about racial justice and the removal of Confederate monuments.

'úThere's no question that this action is being done in the setting of a larger conversation we are having,'Ě Stephens said, adding he is 'úinterested in building new representations of what America is all about.'Ě

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